Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christopher George (1931-1983)

One of the great pleasures I get from this blog is being able to write about actors that I just adore. I think when you discover an actor as a child or a young adult, it sticks with you more. Especially when they are no longer with us.

Such is the case with Christopher George. An amazingly charismatic actor, George is probably best known for either his westerns or the slew of B grade horror movies he did before he died in 1983. What people might not realize is that he had a strong career in television that spanned from airy fare like The Love Boat to eerie cop thrillers like House on Greenapple Road (1970) (he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in Rat Patrol in 1967) . In fact, he moved easily between the small screen and the big one during the 70s.

I thought it might be fun to take a look back at his work on television:  

The Immortal (1969): A nice mix of sci-fi and thriller, The Immortal is about a race car driver whose immortality is of interest to some sinister types. Also starring Jessica Walter (Home for the Holidays). The Immortal became a short lived television series (1970 - 1971) also starring George. 

House on Greenapple Road (1970): An all star thriller involving a missing woman. The character George played, Dan August got his own show with Burt Reynolds, but the chill factor from this film remains. Click on title for full review.

Dan August is here to help us.. SWOON!
The Immortal (1970 - 1971): George reprises his role as Ben Richards in this short lived series based on the TV movie. The Immortal was in the same vein as The Fugitive (or maybe more apropos, Werewolf), and he's a man on the run!

Watch the opening of The Immortal:

Dead Men Tell No Tales (1971): George plays two characters in this tense potboiler about mistaken identity. 

Escape (1971): Christopher George plays the sexily named Cameron Steele (man of action, no doubt) an escape artist/private eye (!) out to stop a mad scientist turning people into zombies! Now this one just HAS to be good! It's directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (Home for the Holidays again!) and also stars William Windom and Avery Schreiber. 
The Heist (1972): Another awesome cast (Norman Fell, people!!!) appears in another George thriller, this time involving an armored car guard out to prove his innocence.

Man on a String (1972): George leads an incredible cast including Keith Carradine, Jack Warden and Joel Grey as an agent out to topple the mob! Directed by Joseph Sargent. 

Love American Style, episode titled Love and the Burglar Joke (1973): It's funny for me to think of Christopher George in a comedy, but there you go. Here he plays a practical joker out to pull a fast one on his sister's roommate, but then the real burglar shows up. And hijinks ensue! George also appeared in an earlier episode titled Love and Formula 26B in 1971. 

A Beautiful Killing (1974): I couldn’t find any info for this movie, except it aired as a Wide World of Mystery movie and co-starred George’s wife, Lynda Day.

Thriller: The Next Scream You Hear (1974): Thriller was an excellent series in England written by Brian Clemens (The Avengers). Every episode was a stand alone television movie of sorts, which is how it ran here in the states. Shot on video, using suspense over effects, the show was more hit than miss in its six wonderful seasons. In this particular episode, George is again a man accused of a crime he did not commit... the murder of his wife.

Get a little George in Escape:

The Last Survivors (1975): A remake of Seven Waves Away (1957), this version takes the horrible incident involving a luxury liner accident to the court room ala Caine Mutiny. This time, it's up to Martin Sheen to decide the fate of the survivors afloat on a lifeboat and running out of food and water. Harrowing film. 

S.W.A.T., several episodes (1975) – George played a character named Harry in four episodes of this awesome cop show. 

Christopher "Heartbreaker" George in Mayday at 40,000 Feet
 Mayday at 40,000 Feet (1976): In the heyday of the disaster movie, television films weren't far behind with smaller, but often entertaining, copies. This time George (along with his wife Lynda) are part of a large cast of 70s stars (including David Janssen) on board a plane desperate to safely reach the ground after a crazed gunman opens fire! 

Wonder Woman, Fausta The Nazi Wonder Woman (1976) – George’s wife, Lynda Day co-stars with her hubby in the second episode of WW, which features Day as Fausta the evil Nazi operative desperate to figure out WW’s secrets so she can help Hitler take over the world! Phew! Now that’s a lot to take in! 

Love Boat (Several Episodes 1978-1979): Another comedy! Why that Christopher, always surprising me! I have to admit, as big of a fan as I am of both George and the Love Boat, I don’t recall any episodes in particular, however I do remember: 

Fantasy Island, episode titled The Racer (1978): One of my biggest Amanda By Night fantasies was to see Christopher George and Paul Burke in a film together, because I thought they looked so much alike. How excited was I to see they were both featured in this episode of Fantasy Island?!? Only, they are in different stories and don’t share any screen time so I can do my side by side comparisons! I was robbed! George would star in several more episodes through 1982. 

Cruise into Terror (1978): So good. This would turn out to be George’s last made for television movie. Click on the title to read my review. 

Vegas, episode titled Serve, Volley and Kill (1978): aka the best title for an episode of any television series EVER! Seriously. This episode about a tennis match gone deadly features a swarthy George along with his wife, Red Buttons and Mamie Van Doren! Wow. So hot. And it was directed by the late Sutton Roley who also made the fiercely disturbed television movie Satan’s Triangle. Serve is particularly striking episode with fantastic cinematography and lots of awe-inspiring stunts. George is the bad guy and his wife is almost as evil.

Chris and his wife Lynda serve up chaos in Vega$
Charlie’s Angels, episode titled Angels on Skis (1978): The Angels once again find themselves embroiled in espionage as they hit the Vail slopes and protect a presidential aide! Not sure who George plays in this episode, but I smell FBI! 

The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, Pilot episode The Day the Shark ate Lobo (1979): George is a criminal pitted against Lobo his bad self, in the pilot of the criminally underrated comedy show. Sounds a bit like Killer Fish - criminals dump loot in river to be retrieved at a later date only to find some deadly fish have inhabited said area. Geez! Isn't that always the way!

OK, I just can't let this go, don't you think Paul Burke looks just like Christopher George:


Unknown said...

Good job, Amanda. I know exactly what you mean by being captivated by an actor when you are young. The four actors I hero-worshipped as a just-entering-puberty kid were Robert Wagner, William Shatner, Christopher George and Peter Duel. The fact that these were all great-looking guys was not lost on me - even as a boy it helped for my heroes to be good looking. (This was not a physical attraction - I was actually too young to even have those kinds of feelings. As a boy I liked to have very pretty little girlfriends - as a man that continued. The fact that these guys could always GET those kind of girls was part of why I admired them. Identifying with them, there was an implied hope that I would grow up to be like them. As it happened, I'll try to modestly say I didn't turn out too bad! And I'd have to say that studying the way these guys interacted with women helped me without a doubt in my approach to girls, so I learned a bit about what comprises charm and charisma from my TV heroes. Hell, I studied Robert Wagner's photo-flash smile and tried to attain it by practicing in the mirror for weeks. And you know, I think I got it - and kept it! I got lots of compliments on my smile over the years - and you know, every once in a while I do give credit to Robert Wagner!)
What I tried to copy from Chris George was that great walk. I don't know how well I did that, but I still feel it today as part of how I move. Another thing I picked up and tried to make a part of myself was that really strong independent spirit he portrayed in his Ben Richards character on "The Immortal", which was one of my favorite series as a kid. I was devastated when it was cancelled - I wrote a letter to ABC with around 70 kids' signatures as a petition to keep the show on. The bastards at ABC never even replied - I was a thirteen year old kid who went to a lot of trouble to do that, and they couldn't even be bothered to send a postcard. It was the first of many many times to come when ABC would break my heart.
I too will never forget the name Cameron Steele - I just thought it was the coolest name I ever heard. I still do!
I was also a fan of his gorgeous wife Lynda Day George.
Yeah, I followed Christopher George in everything he did. There was kind of a reality/fantasy split for me - when on "The Immortal" his character stated emphatically that he didn't smoke - and of course in my hero worship that influenced me to not do so. But I later found out that in real life, George was a heavy smoker. Very disillusioning. I later took up smoking.
When he died at such a young age I was deeply saddened. The irony of him playing an immortal man and dying so young was something I felt heavily.
Thanks for the good job you did rounding up all these shows he was in, and for bringing across that charisma he had in such abundance. This is my first visit to your blog but I'll be back to check it out some more.
I apologize for this being so long, but it was kind of therapeutic writing it! I've never been able to see all that in such a coherent, connected way before.
Also, GREAT job on the pictures and videos.

Jerry Maniam said...

Thanks Amanda for this splendid tribute to Chris George.His other credits include roles in a few John Wayne westerns like El Dorado, Chisum and The Train Robbers .Chris was also in a Mission Impossible episode titled Nerves in the 1970-71 season opposite his wife Lynda Day who was a series regular then.